15 December 2017 Courier Weekly

Highlights from food delivery debate this week.

PLUS: UK furniture market — Linkedin for creatives — Music startup deals — Christmas logistics

Food delivery: friend or foe?

We were at Mortimer House in Fitzrovia this week, talking food delivery with Uber Eats’ London boss and the founders of two of the most successful operators on delivery: Mother Clucker and Bleecker Burger. We asked whether the likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats were good or bad for restaurants.

Here are some of the main points:

  • The last six months have seen a surge in food delivery. Zan Kaufman from Bleecker said the delivery component of her business had risen by 250%. She added: ‘You look at your weekly P&Ls and think holy shit, you need to wake up and take a look at what’s happening here and treat delivery with respect or you’ll get run over.’ Uber’s Toussaint Wattinne said food delivery is becoming habitual rather than a one-off thing for a growing number of people.
  • Cannibalisation. To what extent are delivery orders replacing purchases in restaurants? Wattinne said it was restaurants’ biggest concern, and companies are doing all sorts of analysis to work this out. He claimed delivery orders were typically made up of around 60-70% customers who wouldn’t have otherwise come into the restaurant to buy directly.
  • The business model of a restaurant changes as more sales come from delivery. According to Wattinne, restaurants are fairly relaxed when delivery accounts for a 10% share of their business. Yet many restaurants have seen the share of delivery edge towards 40-50%, prompting them to rethink their entire business model.
  • With Uber’s deep pockets and Deliveroo’s near-£750m in funding, is this sustainable long term, or are venture capitalists just paying for our dinners at the moment? Uber reckons its food delivery business is already profitable in ‘more than a handful’ of cities. It has been active in London for 18 months and is in a ‘much healthier’ position than its taxi business after the same period.
  • Nevertheless, should restaurants be worried about commissions going up? Bean from Mother Clucker was reassured by the competition among delivery players. Kaufman less so: ‘[I haven’t got] a long term contract so I’m nervous. As the percentage has crept up, my nerves have crept up.’
  • With the loss of the broader brand experience of eating in a buzzy restaurant or street food market, both Mother Clucker and Bleecker are currently trialling schemes to inject their brand into how people receive their delivery food.

US stalwart to enter UK furniture market.

Britain’s once staid retail furniture sector has seen several startups emerge but is about to get even more crowded. West Elm, the beloved Brooklyn-based chain, has announced expansion plans for the UK.

The UK market is divided roughly between old-school mass-market incumbents — DFS, Ikea, Habitat and John Lewis — plus high-end furniture retailers at the opposite end of the spectrum as well as a handful of new e-commerce players.

Made.com, Sofa.com, Swoon Editions and Loaf have made their play based on selling through the internet, cutting expensive showroom costs and often making to order. They’ve also tried to enter a space between the budget and luxury brackets. However, the line between the mass-market and e-commerce furniture companies is blurring.

Realising that some customers need a touch-and-feel experience, the newer companies are opening shops, while traditional retailers are upping their game online. Made opened a flagship store on Charing Cross Road in 2015. Loaf has launched three so-called ‘shacks’ or ‘slowrooms’ in London, filled with perks such as an ice-cream parlour and a basement cinema.

Meanwhile, Ikea, once resolutely fixed on its model of large out-of-town big-box warehouses has started opening city sites and selling online.

In this environment can a more conventional player such as West Elm make inroads?

The company, owned by Williams-Sonoma (also known for Pottery Barn), launched its first UK store in 2013 on Tottenham Court Road and last week opened its second, in Kingston. An executive at West Elm told City AM it has big plans for the UK.

Though a growing segment, e-commerce sales of furniture remain relatively low, at around 15% of the total market.

The Dots gaining ground with its twist on Linkedin.

Fresh from a £4m funding round announced this week, London-based The Dots is considering an expansion into the US.

The Dots is a hybrid of a professional network and jobs board. Earlier this year founder Pip Jamieson hired a former Linkedin employee who helped scale their old company in Europe. Jamieson told Courier she is now trying to get her head around how best to grow across the US’s numerous creative centres, from San Francisco to New York.

Built primarily for people in the creative sector, 41% of The Dots’ 250,000+ members are freelancers, and 30% are based outside the UK. Women make up 61% of members. The site is designed for people with a ‘much more fluid way of working’ than the traditional white-collar career path. Rather than list a succession of job titles, members of The Dots tag themselves in projects, from film production to website designs.

Big corporates like Google and Burberry are using The Dots to build entire teams for specific projects such as ad campaigns or events.

Big deals in the music biz. 

There has been a spate of deals targeting music apps in recent weeks.

The biggest has been Apple’s acquisition of UK-based Shazam – reportedly worth £300m. The app, which has been around for longer than the iPhone, allows users to identify songs playing on the radio or in clubs. The acquisition appears to be a bid to enhance Apple’s music streaming offering, which has struggled against the likes of Spotify.

Other deals include:

  • Idagio, a Berlin-based classical music streaming service, has raised £7m in funding.
  • Indie music publisher Songs has been acquired for a rumoured £120m.
  • Spotify and Tencent, a huge Chinese tech firm, have swapped stakes in each others’ companies.

This article offers an interesting take on the state of music startups – it argues that new entrants, not the major record labels, are now the ones driving the way we will listen to music in the future.

How Santa’s startup helpers get ready for Christmas.

Continued growth in online shopping has made logistics companies major retail players.

It is notably apparent over Christmas, and now Black Friday.

The logistics sector has been slow to change, dominated by the likes of DHL and UPS, and its inflexible processes have been a point of frustration for small companies. However, that’s shifting.

The festive season started three months ago for packaging startup Weengs. The company, which collects, boxes up and sends items for small retailers, subscription startups and platforms such as boutique shop hub Trouva, began training up extra drivers and warehouse packers in September.

Its tech team too has been focusing solely on operations for six weeks, to ensure a smooth run-up to Christmas. In the week of Black Friday, Weengs says shipping volumes jumped by 50%.

Elsewhere, on-demand warehousing startup Stowga has raised a £1.5m seed round. It offers retailers more flexible, cost-effective storage options than incumbents.